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Friday, January 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Volunteers unpack, assemble Christmas Bureau toys

Linda Solan and Lenny Kostelecky unload pallets and stack boxes of toys on carts as volunteers work to get the Christmas Bureau set up at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The annual charity purchases and gives away toys every December, and the effort depends on volunteers to order, sort and organize the toys. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Linda Solan and Lenny Kostelecky unload pallets and stack boxes of toys on carts as volunteers work to get the Christmas Bureau set up at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The annual charity purchases and gives away toys every December, and the effort depends on volunteers to order, sort and organize the toys. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Volunteers showed up to the Ag Building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center on Wednesday to sort pallets full of toys in anticipation of the first day of the Christmas Bureau next week.

It was a departure from years past, when all the sorting and set up was done in a two-day marathon before the Bureau opened.

“We had all this delivered early,” said volunteer coordinator Brigid Krause. “They’re going to try to organize it and get everything into rows. When we asked everyone to come early, they said sure. They’re so excited.”

Toy buyer Cheryl Taam said sorting the items that arrived last month will give her a chance to make sure nothing’s missing. “The majority of our toys came in already,” she said.

Some toys arrived earlier in the year and have been held in storage. Those will be delivered to the fairgrounds next Monday on the first set-up day, Taam said.

Retired farmer Mike Bell was there Wednesday with his hand tools to help assemble toys. He and his wife are members of the Pacific Islanders Association, as is Taam, who recruited him to help out this year.

“We’re just here to help assemble,” he said. “It’ll take one or two each until we get the technique down.”

Perhaps the busiest person there was Fair and Expo Center Event Production Coordinator Terry Dickinson, who buzzed back and forth in a forklift moving giant pallets of toys. Christmas Bureau Coordinator Sierra Heinen said she was grateful for the help of Dickinson and other fairground employees.

“The fairgrounds staff respond so quickly to our needs,” she said. “Terry is the sweetest, kindest, most helpful human. I don’t know how we would do it without him.”

Volunteers will come back Monday and Tuesday to complete setting up, and the Christmas Bureau will open to recipients at 10 a.m. Wednesday, providing a food voucher for each family and a new toy and book for each child.

Donations

The charities running the Christmas Bureau, Catholic Charities and the Volunteers of America, increased their goal this year $535,000 to help cover higher costs. Donations have been slowly arriving, with the latest tally adding $5,875 to bring the year-to-date total to $78,266.59. There’s a shorter time than usual between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, making every donation even more critical.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,500. Sean Lasalle of Spokane donated $1,000 via Pay Pal. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $600. Terry Deno of Spokane contributed $525 via Pay Pal.

Deborah Pierce of Liberty Lake donated $300 via Pay Pal. Burma and Richard Williams of Spokane gave $300. “The Christmas Fund is one of the finest things about Spokane!” they wrote. “Our thanks to The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and the many volunteers for all you do to help make Christmas merry for everyone.”

Edward and Carolyn Knott of Liberty Lake donated $250.

John Leaming gave $150, as did Lane Klees of Spokane. Jean Jalufka of Spokane gave $150 in honor of the Loucks family.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150 and included a note. “Once again we are happy to be able to contribute to the Christmas Fund,” the donor wrote. “We are fortunate because, even though we are on a fixed income, we have shelter, clothing, food, and can buy presents for our family. We pray circumstances will change for those who are less fortunate. God bless everyone who works at the Christmas Fund and everyone who uses its services.”

Rosemary and John Olson of Colbert donated $100. Kathy Harper of Spokane contributed $100. Sylvia Oliver of Spokane sent $100 via Pay Pal, as did Theophil Otto. Harley and Melanie Reckord of Spokane gave $100, as did Richard Skelton of Liberty Lake.

Scott Huff of Kingwood, Texas, sent $50. Steve, Gail and Ben Quaid of Colbert contributed $50. Angela Dierdorff of Spokane donated $50 via Pay Pal, writing “In honor of my grown children who loved them, I hope this small contribution can help bring the joy of Legos to others!”

Tracy Howe of Spokane donated $25. Ruthie Dearing sent $25 via Pay Pal.

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